Young cigarmakers in the Englehardt & Company factory at Tampa, Florida, January 1909. Lewis Hine wrote, "Three boys looked under 14. Work was slack and youngsters were not being employed much. Labor leaders told me in busy times many small boys and girls were employed. Youngsters all smoke." Photo by Lewis Hine.
Lewis Hine wrote, "4-year-old Mary, who shucks oysters (two pots a day). Tends the baby when not working. The boss said Mary will work as steady as the rest of them. The mother is the fastest shucker in the place. Earns $1.50 a day. Works part of the time with her sick baby in her arms. Father works on the docks." Photographed at Dunbar, Louisiana, March 1911, by Lewis Hine.
An immigrant family doing piecework in a dirty, poorly lighted New York City tenement. Hines wrote that "Pauline 6 years old, works after school. Peter, 8 works until 8 p.m. Mike 12 years old, until 10 p.m. Father keeps a rag shop."
L ewis Hine's captions for his photographs provide a wealth of information about the working conditions, incomes, ages, sizes, and lives of the people shown. In many cases, what the children or families earned was mentioned. But how can we compare what they made in 1908 to 1912 with what people earn today? Obviously, the Young family that survived on $9.00 a week in 1909 could never do that today. Because of inflation, $9.00 was worth much more then than it is now. But was it enough? The following are a few examples with the children's earnings converted to today's money.
The Young family worked at a mill in Tifton, Georgia, in 1909. The mother, four daughters and one son worked in the mill and earned a combined income of $9.00 a week. Mrs. Young's husband died so that had to support the entire family -- the mother and nine children. If that was today's money, they would be living on $166.38 a week, or $8,652 for the entire year. The federal government's poverty line for a family of ten was $34,450 for the year 2000. The Young family would have been living on about one-quarter of that amount.
Hattie Hunter, a young spinner in the Lancaster Cotton Mills in Lancaster, South Carolina, made 50 cents a day in 1908. In today's money, that would be $8.91 a day or $53.46 a week. If Hattie was paid today's federal minimum wage with time and half for overtime, she would make $72.10 a day, or $432.60 a week in today's money.
Alberta McNadd, a 5-year-old berry picker on Chester Truitt’s Farm, Delaware, was paid two cents a box in 1909. She picks steadily from sun-up to sun-down. A young picker, she filled only two boxes a day so she made four cents a day. Laura missed school to pick berries for only 74 cents a day or $4.44 a week in today's money.
In 1911, boys 7 to 12 years old who cut fish in an Eastport, Maine, canning factory earned 75 cents to $1.00 a day. They worked very long hours, sometimes from 7:00 A.M. to midnight. Working all those hours, they still only made $13.37 to $17.83 a day in today's money. People working today at the federal minimum wage earn more than that in three to four hours.
Average size of family................................... 7
Average rent per month...................................$ 11.17
Average number of rooms................................... 4
Average amount to cover food, lighting, clothing, insurance, emergencies,etc., for 7 people...................... $13.94 per week
$16.17 Non Homeworker : Average weekly income of father $65.00 Average monthly income of father $55.00 Average expenses per month (family of 7) $11.17 Average rent per month $30.00 Average monthly income of father $7.13 Homeworker : Average weekly income of father
WORK PRICE PER PIECE WEEKLY INCOME Finishing coats.............6c a piece $2.40 to $3.00 Finishing pants.............6c to 10c a pair $3.00 to $4.20 Making violets..............3c a gross up $2.75 to $3.50 Making little roses.........8c a gross $2.75 to $4.00 Making large roses..........16c to 18c a gross $3.00 (7 and 8 petals) Making baby dresses.........45c a dozen $3.20 to $5.00 (Sewing up two sides, hemming skirt, making sleeves and sewing them in, gathering and binding the neck into a band, sewing on one button and making one button hole.) Embroidering crepe de.......$5.00 a dress china dresses (It takes 10 days to complete one.)